The American Red Cross has launched First Aid for Opioid Overdoses – an online course to teach people how to respond to a known or suspected opioid overdose.

“An opioid overdose is a life-threatening emergency,” said Patricia Murtagh, CEO of the Maine Region of the American Red Cross. “When you suspect an opioid overdose, it’s important to start providing care immediately.”

The overall drug overdose rate in the United States is on the rise. In 2016, drug overdoses killed 63,632 Americans, with nearly two-thirds of those deaths involving opioid, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Maine had a total of 180 drug fatalities in the first half of 2018, with 84 percent caused by at least one opioid.

The 45-minute course contains content on how to identify the signs and symptoms of a suspected opioid overdose and the appropriate care to provide based on the responsiveness of the person. Information on how to use several different naloxone products – including a nasal atomizer, Narcan® Nasal Spray and EVZIO® – to temporarily reverse the effects of an opioid overdose is also included.

People can register and access the course at Because an opioid overdose can lead to cardiac arrest, people are also encouraged to take a Red Cross CPR/AED course.

Red Cross has also prepared guidance on opioid use and overdose response for those working in the organization’s shelters during disasters. Recently, these efforts empowered a Red Cross volunteer to help save the life of a person in a shelter during Hurricane Florence.

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